This week Facebook launched, “Facebook Questions” to a limited number of users. In essence the Questions service easily posts a public question from the same spot you might normally post a basic update. A question using Questions is completely public, although answers will likely contain responses by both Friends and non-Friends.
“Right now the product will only be launched to a beta group, however Questions will be rolled out based on how the beta test performs. There are a number of significant features within questions that are not provided by competing services (i.e. Quora). For example, users will be able to add photos to a question, create polls, and browse through questions based on categories. One other substantial feature that many Page administrators will welcome, is the ability to ask questions directly from a Facebook Page.”
The addition also meant a slightly re-worked publishing tool for users posting status updates, links, etc. While not normally a very big deal, some rightly point out that the simple status update or wall-writing (even on someone else’s) now requires two clicks before posting, which could impact the number of posts.
What does this mean for institutions such as healthcare, higher education?
The answer is first not to be afraid of new features, but be mindful of how they could be used.
The change will be advantageous for institutions keen on engaging audiences by allowing a Page to ask open-ended questions as it normally might, only in a more visible medium as the questions will appear in the public repository, not just on your Facebook Page.
The most obvious concern for many will be how the general public uses it to poll their friends and beyond for decisions, possibly slanting their Questions obviously to the positive or negative. Where currently a Facebook user might simply post on their wall, “I just moved to Chicago, where should I take my toddler for her first checkup, anyone recommend a doctor?”, this question now can now be posed to a waiting public who may answer with verbosity. Or, when in shopping mode for institutions of higher education, a teen who has narrowed their choices might poll openly which of the two or three they should attend.
This last point should also signal an opportunity, however. Here is your chance to demonstrate thought leadership and ANSWER questions as well.
How Facebook Questions challenges general sites such as Quora, or industry-specific sites such as WebMD’s Exchanges, only time will tell.
Some rightly note that many of the Questions being asked right now as it launches in beta are all about Facebook and Facebook Questions.
Questions will be an interesting animal to watch from a monitoring standpoint as we judge adoption levels.